It has always been on of the things about theologically trained folks that has struck me as a little odd, how good we are at giving answers. Now there is good reasons why we are so good at giving answers, that was what we were trained for. So ask us a question and likely you will get an answer complete with scripture references and a Luther quote. It is also the history of the church that we have fought over and defended the answers we have.
What if we put all that effort into coming up with good questions? In the upcoming Gospel reading (Mark 8) Jesus begins with a good question “Who do you say that I am?” Interestingly when Peter gives the right answer, Jesus shows Peter that he simply doesn’t understand. Then Jesus does something remarkable, he invites the crowd to deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Jesus. Instead of answers, Jesus invites them to self denial and following.
Answers are tricky things. Even if they are right, they often can act as a wall which can lead us to feeling superior (since we have the truth). Within this wall we can often turn in on our selves, and close our selves off to the ways that God is being revealed anew, and inviting us out into discipleship.
Questions by their very nature take us in a different direction. Questions are an opening. In their waiting to be answered they create in us a moment of silent listening in which God can speak. In their admitting that one doesn’t know, the self and its desire to be right and to know is denied. With this opening and this self denial there is the opportunity for God to again lead us.
So what if we were trained and encouraged to ask good questions. To look for ways in which we might need to again open ourselves to God’s leading and God’s teaching. Perhaps it is through our questions and not our answers that we are led closer to God.
And even the answers we give should always be questioned. For if we remember “we see in a mirror dimly” and even the answers we are most sure of can soon be seen as ignorance when a new answer is offered.